With the 2022 season around the corner, the Maryland men’s lacrosse team is looking to make it back to where they were last season, but this time, the Terps want to win it all.
Maryland lost to Virginia, 17-16, in the 2021 national championship game. The Terps are using that as extra motivation to finish the job this year.
“You have to be careful when you lose a game like that,” Maryland head coach John Tillman said on Glenn Clark Radio Feb. 1. “You can use it as motivation at times, but you’ve got to be careful of dwelling on that and constantly bringing it up because it is a new year. That opportunity is gone, and that game is not coming back. You hope that the guys can reflect back on the way they felt and that does drive them at times, but if you use it too much, I do think it could be a little unhealthy.”
The Terrapins went 15-1 and won the Big Ten regular-season and tournament championships in 2021. They nearly sent the national championship game into overtime, but Virginia goalie Alex Rode turned away Luke Wierman in the final moments. Luckily for Tillman and the Terps, they are bringing back most of the core that contributed to that unbelievable 2021 season.
However, Jared Bernhardt, one of the best players in Maryland history, is no longer on the team. He ended his Maryland career as the program’s all-time leader in career points (290), career goals (202), single-season points (99), single-season goals (71), points in one NCAA Tournament (24) and goals scored in one NCAA Tournament (18).
It’ll be an adjustment to play without the 2021 Tewaaraton Award winner, according Tillman.
“Jared was kind of a unique guy in that … he was winning matchups and he was attacking top matchups, and a lot of times if you’re going against the other team’s best defensemen, sometimes it’s really hard [for others] to win those matchups without maybe getting some leverage from picks and maybe some deception,” Tillman said. “Knowing that Jared was causing so many problems against top defensemen, it did make other guys’ jobs easier.”
The Terps are still rank No. 2 in the Inside Lacrosse preseason poll despite Bernhardt’s departure. Maryland retains crucial players from both sides of the ball. Attackman Logan Wisnauskas, midfielder Kyle Long, defensemen Roman Puglise and Brett Makar and goalie Logan McNaney are among the key returners.
Wisnauskas had an incredible 2021 season (41 goals, 31 assists) and will try to fill the void left by Bernhardt. A first-team All-Big Ten member and third-team All-American, Wisnauskas had five goals against Virginia in the national championship game. He’ll be tasked with helping to fill the void left by Bernhardt.
“I think we have enough pieces that understand what we’re trying to do. Our smart players can kind of pick their spots, per se,” Tillman said. “Logan, you feel his presence, whether it’s getting us organized or he’s dodging or he’s moving off ball, and if you don’t account for him or give him looks from the outside or don’t cover him inside, he’s going to get opportunities, and that’s what’s so unique about him. He can beat you in a lot of different ways.”
Wisnauskas and the rest of the returning core will bring that essential experience a team needs to win a national championship. Maryland starts its season at noon on Saturday, Feb. 5 in College Park, Md., against High Point. The Terps host Loyola Feb. 12 and travel to South Bend, Ind., to take on Notre Dame March 5.
On March 19, Maryland will have the opportunity for revenge against Virginia as the two teams meet up in a national championship rematch. Maryland kicks off Big Ten play at Penn State March 27 and then finishes up the regular season at in-state rival Johns Hopkins April 23.
“You always love experience, just because they’ve been through it,” Tillman said. “I think we all feel more comfort with somebody you’ve seen go out there and got some reps under their belt. You also realize that even though they’ve been through it, it still goes back to execution, and you got to make sure you are razor sharp down there. That group is pretty driven.”
For more from Tillman, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Athletics